The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

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May 10, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: Spider-Man 2 weaves too-tangled web

PALESTINE — “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has all the elements of a blockbuster: part 2 of a hugely successful franchise based on a very successful comic book; huge budget from terrifically successful producers; high profile cast reprising incredibly popular roles; and not one, not two, but three super-villains for the protagonist to face.  Sadly, it does not live up to its potential.

Peter Parker, alias Spider-Man is on his way to his high school graduation and is side-tracked by terrorists stealing high explosives from Defense Department contractor Oscorp.  The omnipresent Oscorp generates electricity for New York City as well as manufacturing a plethora of expensive gadgets for the military.  Norman Osborne, CEO of Oscorp dies, leaving his controlling interest in the business to his son, Harry, an old school friend of Peter’s.  But Harry has inherited his father’s fatal illness and is desperate to find a cure; it appears that the radioactive spiders that created Spider-Man hold a key to curing the illness, so Harry wants to tap into Spider-Man’s system to find the remedy.  Meanwhile, Peter is consumed with guilt over breaking his promise to his girlfriend Gwen Stacy’s dying father to end their relationship.  When shy, introverted Max Dillon, an electrician at Oscorp is apparently killed in an accident at the corporate offices, the powerful Oscorp media machine tries to hush it up.  Except that Max is not dead, he is resurrected as the ultra-powerful, electricity-controlling super-villain Electro who allies with Harry Osborne to destroy Spider-Man.  Gwen, who works as an intern at Oscorp, is pursuing a university enrollment in Oxford, England, which may solve Peter’s conscience-driven dilemma.  Meanwhile, Peter is driven to find out about his father’s disappearance when he was employed at Oscorp ten years earlier.

The cast is earnest.  Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) plays Peter as a neurotic worrier whose only release is as the wise-cracking Spider-Man.  Wide-eyed Emma Stone (“The Help”) is irresistible as Gwen.  Sally Fields (“Lincoln”) portrays Peter’s Aunt May as a classic hard-working woman trying to make ends meet.  Jamie Foxx (“Django Unchained”) is almost a caricature as Max/Electro.  Dane Dehaan (“Lawless”) plays the insanely malicious Harry/Green Goblin.  And the wonderful Paul Giamatti (“Saving Mr. Banks”) is over-the-top as Russian terrorist Aleksei Sytsevich/Rhino.

This complex melodrama tends to mimic the style of the original comic book, which was always heavy on subplot and psychology.  Visually, the film is substantially laden with computer special effects that are not terribly convincing-- they often look unfinished, or at least so obviously computer-generated as to be unrealistic. The camera-work is also distracting, with slow motion shots combined with real-time in many of the action sequences which acts to slow down the action.  

And that’s the real complaint I have with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2:” it plods.  Clocking in at almost two and a half hours, it drags.

My other complaint is the total reliance on Oscorp as the source of all villainy.  Not only was it instrumental in the disappearance of Peter’s father and in the creation of Spider-Man and the Lizard in the first segment of the franchise, but the company created Electro, the Green Goblin, and Rhino in this film. Such coincidences definitely stretch the bounds of plausibility.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a mildly entertaining film that should have been a blockbuster.

2.0 Stars

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1 star — Avoid this boring mess of a movie at all costs.  Reading the dictionary is more entertaining.

2 stars — If you're in the right mood or if the subject matter appeals to you, you may like this film; or it is uneven, at times entertaining and believable and at other times sophomoric.  If you've got nothing else to do, it may be worth the price of admission (at least a matinee).

3 stars — This is a generally good movie that most people will enjoy.  If you're looking for an entertaining couple of hours, spend it here and you won't be disappointed.

4 stars — Don't miss this film!  I don't care if you have time or not, make the time, because this movie is terrific.

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